Authorities in Canada are investigating the deaths of two young brothers who are believed to have been killed by an escaped python in an apartment in the New Brunswick city of Campbellton.
The Globe and Mail newspaper reports that the boys -- identified as Connor and Noah Barthe, aged 7 and 5 -- were found early Monday morning in an apartment above an exotic pet store called Reptile Ocean. An autopsy was scheduled Tuesday.
The two boys were sharing a room at a sleepover with the child of the shop's owner, police told local news outlets. Another boy was in a separate room and was not harmed, news reports said.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police believe the African python, which was described as about four yards long and weighing nearly 100 pounds, escaped from its enclosure and slithered into the apartment through the ventilation ducts.
The store owner, Jean-Claude Savoie, reportedly found the snake in the living room with the boys. It had apparently fallen through the ceiling into the room.
"I thought they were sleeping until I [saw] the hole in the ceiling," Savoie told Canada's Global News. "I turned the lights on, and I [saw] this horrific scene."
Savoie said he did not know how the snake got into the ventilation system.
"My body is in shock. I don't know what to think," he was quoted as saying.
Police took possession of the snake, which has been killed, a source close to the investigation told the Globe and Mail.
The incident has raised questions about the sale and ownership of exotic pets.
Melissa Matlow, spokeswoman for the World Society for the Protection of Animals in Canada, told the Globe and Mail that a Brampton man was killed in 1992 by his pet python.
"They don't make good pets, period. They should be banned," she was quoted as saying.
Campbellton's deputy mayor, Ian Comeau, said he was concerned about the location of an apartment above the store. He said the city will investigate whether the proper permits had been issued and will be considering a new bylaw, news reports said.